With the holiday season upon us, we can sometimes get a bit carried away and forget that our everyday eco-actions still matter and can make a real difference in changing the mindset of our community.
Here are 29 ideas to boost your holiday eco-spirit—most of which are very simple and will even save you money! If you already do some of these ideas, then keep doing what you’re doing and maybe choose a new eco-action to commit to this holiday season. Of course, use your common sense, especially when it comes to following any of these suggestions versus listening to your local safety guidelines regarding COVID-19.
- Buy less stuff.
- Give experiences such as a nice meal or tickets to an event (like the Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival World Tour Virtual Edition).
- Donate to a charity in someone’s name.
- If you buy online, only buy what you need.
- Pay attention to packaging.
- Bulk is better for the environment than individually wrapped items or sample sizes.
- Reusable and recyclable packaging is better for the environment than single-use packaging.
- Buy from local businesses.
- Buy from businesses with a commitment to sustainability.
- Yes, it can take a few extra minutes to research if a company uses recycled materials or wastes fewer resources to make their products, but often this information is easy to find once you look for it since businesses want their potential customers to know how their company is working towards a sustainable business model.
- Learn what the products you buy are made out of, and whether or not they come from a renewable resource.
- Synthetic fabrics such as polyester, fleece, nylon, and spandex are derived from non-renewable fossil fuels.
- Choose candles made from natural waxes (such as soy wax, beeswax, coconut wax, palm wax, or vegetable wax) instead of paraffin wax.
- Give homemade gifts.
- If you have a giftable talent, then go forth and rock it!
- Keep an eye on the upcoming events and workshops at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre; we often have workshops on candlemaking, soapmaking, and painting (in accordance with provincial and municipal safety guidelines).
- Buy gifts second-hand.
- There are lots of options when buying second-hand, such as thrift stores, Kijiji, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace, to name just a few.
- Some second-hand treasures are in such great condition that your gift recipients would never guess they weren't purchased new.
- Make the thrill of the hunt part of the holiday spirit; maybe this year’s Secret Santa rules can require all items be second-hand or homemade.
- Reuse past cards as gift tags, and save some from this year for next year.
- Cut off the writing from when the card or tag was originally used, then reuse the part of the card with the picture or design. Keep doing this year after year to reuse the same card (that gets slightly smaller after each use) numerous times.
- Cut one large holiday card picture into several smaller gift tags.
- Avoid wrapping paper and cards that use glitter and metallic foil since these cannot be recycled.
- A shiny alternative is to clean and reuse the silver inside of potato chip bags.
- Use reusable gift bags and boxes.
- Wrap gifts with reused/upcycled items such as a glass jar, t-shirt, towel, scarf, bandana, blanket, pillow case, or newspaper.
- Bonus: some of these items are now part of the gift!
- Reuse the tissue paper used as stuffing in delivery boxes when you buy items online.
- Buy gift bags, tissue paper, ribbon, tins, and many other wrapping supplies from thrift stores.
- Make your own decorations.
- There’s always some scrap paper, newspaper, or cardboard in your recycling… Give it a second life before it gets recycled to make paper chains, paper ball garlands, banners, or snowflakes—the options are endless!
- Use traditional ideas for garland, such as cranberries and popcorn.
- Try your hand at salt dough ornaments.
- Look for natural items to use as decorations, such as a bowl of pinecones, or twine and sticks to make a star.
- Avoid disposable or cheaply-made decorations.
- When holiday lights are on, turn other lights off.
- Unplug unused lights and electronics to cut down on vampire energy.
- When buying replacement lights, buy LED.
- Recycle or properly dispose of lights that don’t work (CFL lights must be brought to the household hazardous waste depot, at no extra cost).
Food & drink
- Eat less meat.
- If you are content with your carnivore status, but want to make environmentally-friendly dinner choices, then look for sustainably produced poultry and fish, or even game meats such as bison, deer, elk, moose, and rabbit. It’s good to be aware that commercially-produced beef has a particularly high environmental cost, and while other commercially-produced meats are slightly more eco-friendly than beef, they still have significant environmental effects.
- For omnivores looking to transition to a more plant-based diet, a good idea is to substitute half of the meat in a recipe for a more eco-friendly option, or have a protein-rich side dish so less meat needs to be eaten from the main dish. Some specific examples to get you started: replace half the beef in your spaghetti sauce with red lentils or kidney beans; replace half the chicken in a stir fry with tofu or nuts; have baked beans as a side dish with ribs, ham, or nachos. Also, have you ever tried cashews on pizza? It’s inexplicably delicious.
- Cook and bake food from scratch instead of purchasing pre-made, pre-packaged foods.
- Buy food and drinks from local producers.
- Compost all food scraps and soiled paper products.
- The green carts in Red Deer even accept bones, meat, dairy products, facial tissues, paper towels, paper napkins, and greasy pizza boxes. Click here for the full list of acceptable green cart items for Red Deerians.
- Avoid buying any single-serving or individually-wrapped food items (yogurt, cookies, crackers and cheese, fruit cups, granola bars, frozen entrees, lunch packs, etc.).
- Instead, buy in bulk and put single servings into your own reusable containers.
- Share bulk purchases with a friend, housemate, or family member.
- To reduce food waste, plan specific meals, check your cupboards, and make a list before heading to the grocery store.
- Veggies a bit past their prime? Make a soup, stir fry, pasta sauce, casserole… anything you want—put them to good use!
- Bread past its prime? Make croutons, bruschetta, crustini… you get the idea.
- Many items can be eaten well past their “best before” date. From the Government of Canada website, “Best-before dates are about food quality and not food safety.”
- Avoid single-use cutlery, napkins, plates, and cups.
- If you absolutely must use single-use items, choose compostable items and then compost them (put them in your green cart).
Spending time at home & at play
- Turn down the thermostat a couple of degrees and instead wear layers or use a blanket.
- Do something that doesn’t involve looking at a screen (or maybe doesn’t use electricity at all).
- Some of our staff favourites include playing musical instruments, reading, playing board games, attempting puzzles, and playing in the snow—making snow angels and snowmen, snowshoeing, skiing, tobogganing, and everything in between! And if you think playing in the snow is just for little kids, then you should see how much fun our staff has at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre.
- Cut down on travel costs.
- Have a virtual gathering.
- Walk, bike, ski, or snowshoe to where you need to go.
- Carpool or take the bus.
- Avoid flying in planes.
We’ll post another eco-ideas blog in the spring, when it will be time for our annual city-wide spring litter cleanup. Until then, stay healthy, try out a new eco-action, and enjoy your holidays!